ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Tuesday constituted a commission, headed by Federal Shariat Court judge Justice Shahzad Sheikh, to fix responsibility for the Lal Masjid 2007 incident with the direction to submit its recommendations within 45 days.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, asked the commission to probe the reasons for the Lal Masjid incident besides ascertaining how many people, including men, women and the law-enforcers, were killed.

The court also set terms and references of the commission. It will inquire what caused the incident and how many persons — men, women, civilians and law-enforcers – lost their lives.

The commission will also investigate whether their dead bodies were identified and handed over to the legal heirs and compensation paid to the heirs by the state or not. The commission will also ascertain whether any action was taken against those responsible for the tragedy.

During the hearing, Assistant Inspector General Islamabad Police Tahir Alam submitted a report pertaining to the operation. According to the report, 103 people, including 72 militants, 16 unidentified, four passersby and 11 security agencies’ officials, were killed in the operation.

The CJP questioned how the capital police could declare 88 people (killed in the operation) terrorists as it was a one-sided version until proven.

He said the people should know who were responsible for the incident and if the state could not handle this one issue, what else it could do.

Tahir Alam said the people of Lal Masjid violated the law and took up weapons against the personnel of the law-enforcement agencies. “We ordered them to leave Lal Masjid, but they violated the orders,” he added.

The chief justice also referred to a TV interview of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain without mentioning his name that the Lal Masjid operation was conducted without consensus.

Justice Azmat Saeed told the police officer that if the Lal Masjid management was wrong, there was a legal procedure to handle the issue, but no law allows anyone to kill all and sundry for the wrongs of a few criminals.

The CJP remarked how they could declare them terrorists; because they were not vacating the building? He also questioned whether any independent investigating agency declared the people killed in Lal Masjid terrorists.

Tahir Alam told the SC that after the operation no dead bodies of girls were found from the Lal Masjid compound. He said no family member of any girl had lodged a complaint with the police station in this regard.

The court, dismissing his version, said the report was incorrect as innocent girls were reported killed during the Lal Masjid operation. The chief justice said it was reported that several orphan girls, affected by the 2005 earthquake, were also residing there.

Justice Azmat Sheikh asked the capital police officer that he should not be afraid and tell the truth to the nation regarding this incident as “truth will set you free”. He also said he could not believe that no girl was residing in Jamia Hafsa at the last moment of the operation.

Justice Azmat further said that if it were true that no female was present in the Lal Masjid during the operation, where Maulana Aziz’s mother was.

The AIG said a case had been registered in this regard and no other family of any female had contacted the police.